Shetland Times Column 3rd April 2015


Many of us take the police for granted. Like an ambulance when you need it or a fire engine if the house goes up in flames. Police officers in Commercial Street or in a car around the islands.

 The local work that police do is not today’s concern. Except that they are controlled by centrally dictated targets. Merging the Northern Constabulary with seven other Scottish forces and creating Police Scotland, a national state police force, was a bad idea. It was Alex Salmond’s pride and joy. He still crows about it and Nicola says she had full confidence in the arrangements.

The nationalists installed a career cop. Stephen House is Chief Constable. House was in charge of Strathclyde. He was the main cheerleader for the new state police force. That was wrong. A serving police officer should not be making the governments case for them. He stepped into politics and now he cannot get out. It was no surprise when he got the top job. I opposed Police centralisation. I warned then about Strathclyde policing being imposed across Scotland. That has happened. People warned that could mean the routine arming of police officers. Again that happened. Inverness had police officers walking into supermarkets to buy soft drinks with a firearm.

The annual conference of serving police officers across Scotland is highly critical of centralisation. No wonder. The nationalist government said there would be efficiency savings from merging the 8 Scottish forces into one. Police officers put it rather more directly last week. That mealy mouthed government spin means cuts. In Shetland all the outlying police stations have closed. A police presence in the outlying isles is an occasionally event. Community policing is not understood by senior staff in the central belt. They are driven by targets and budgets – not by what is right for island and isolated communities.

The worst example of Scotland’s state police force getting it wrong is stop and search. More young people than anywhere else in the UK are being stopped and searched. The nationalist government appears to care little for the civil liberties of young people. And Police Scotland’s records of the numbers involved was slammed by an independent body as inaccurate. You and I would not get away with that in a court of law. Why does Stephen House and our nationalist government think that is acceptable?

There is little accountability in Police Scotland. The former Police Board in Inverness used to scrutinise the Northern Constabulary. It was not perfect. But it would never have tolerated the routine carrying of guns by officers. Nor would the shocking number of young people being stopped and searched as routine be acceptable. Police Scotland are supposedly held in check by a Police Authority. They have proved to worse than useless. Yet that is what the nationalist government set up despite many warnings. A future Scottish administration will have to reform this mess. Stephen House has become a politician and policeman and will have to go. Scotland is not New York. New leadership untainted by this mess is desperately needed.


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